La Bete Winery
La Bete Wines is a collaborative effort between
John and Kay Kusy-Eliassen. Both John and Kay have been working within
the Oregon wine business for over twenty years.
Kay and John worked their first
vintage together in Switzerland in 1983. John, a native Oregonian, had
worked as a harvest intern with Oregon wineries prior to this. Amateur
winemaking led to a full commitment on their parts to work the harvest
and vinifications in 1987 at two prestigious Domaines in Burgundy, Domaine
des Lambrays, in Morey St. Denis and Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard in Chassagne-Montrachet.
John then enrolled in the Oenologie program at the Universite’ de
Bourgogne (Dijon) simultaneously with enrollment in the viticulture program
at the Lycee Viticole in Beaune.
Kay found employment
with renowned exporter Becky Wasserman, as well as producing reports and
wine-buying recommendations of Burgundian Domaines for an American importer.
Following a year of coursework in French, John graduated with degrees from
the Universite’ - Diplome d’Oenologie, and viticulture from
Beaune. Amongst his fellow graduates were family members of well-known
Burgundian legends; Drouhin, Chapelle, Bize, Roumier, Lafon, etc. John
is one of less than a handful of American winemakers to have successfully
completed both these curriculums.
Upon return, John worked briefly
with two Oregon wineries, then spent a year distilling eau-de-vies and
other brandies in Oregon. John then served as winemaker at Veritas Winery
in Newberg, Oregon for 5 years. Following this he was winemaker (and Brewmaster)
at Golden Valley winery in McMinnville, Oregon. John has also served as
consulting winemaker for another Oregon winery, River’s Edge since
John specifically chose Burgundy to study winemaking to learn the academic
as well as “traditional” approaches to producing chardonnay
and pinot noir. His course research and theses centered upon the historical
or ancient techniques. When they returned to Oregon, Kay and John wanted
to establish a wine label which reflected these values and this background.
1998 represented the first release and realization of this dream.
The goal of La Bete Wines is to produce historical Burgundian varieties
from top vineyards here in Oregon, stylistically in accordance with historic
techniques. La Bete strives to secure the best grapes we can find and establish
long-term relationships with outstanding vineyards. As with other top wine
producers, establishment of partnerships with high-quality vineyards allows
a variety of single vineyard designated wines to be produced. This further
allows the winemakers to demonstrate their skills with various sites and
Varieties of wines produced include; Aligote, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc,
Melon de Bourgogne, Pinot Gris (Beurot), Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir.
Careful attention is paid to the yields per acre and working with the individual
growers. Grapes are generally late-harvested to achieve optimum ripeness
and flavors. Grapes are carefully sorted and selected, then processed emphasizing
White wines are whole-cluster pressed with no sulfur added at crush. The
juice is settled, activity of native yeast is encouraged, or we use a special
yeast strain from Burgundy if necessary. All whites are fermented in either “neutral”,
old barrels or in stainless steel drums. Primary fermentation is allowed
to progress very-slowly at cool temperatures with some lees agitation in
the chardonnay. The activity of indigenous malo-lactic bacteria is encouraged.
Depending upon the vintage, nearly all white
wines are allowed to fully complete malo-lactic. White wines are lightly
fined using traditional Burgundian methods, carefully racked but generally
not filtered at bottling. As a result a fine sediment or slight haze may
result. The only white wine which is cellared in a proportion of new French
oak is the chardonnay.
Gamay noir is produced using the traditional approach to this varietal.
Whole clusters, neither de-stemmed nor crushed, are sealed in a fermentation
vessel and allowed to ferment under carbonic conditions.
Pinot noir is de-stemmed very gently resulting in a high proportion of
whole berries. A certain portion of whole clusters is used depending upon
the vintage. Indigenous or special Burgundian yeast strains are used in
the small lot fermenters. Fermenters are punched or “bodily pigead” to
assure even ferments and color extraction. The press and free-run lots
are separated and cellared in old, neutral barrels.
Typically 20-25% new
wood is used. Indigenous malo-lactic bacteria are used. As with all our
wines, a respect for seasonal and lunar conditions govern our racking regime,
in accordance with ancient Burgundian practices. Pinot noirs are cellared
10-12 months and bottled unfined and un-filtered.
Excerpted with permission from La Bete Winery